Obstructive Sleep Apnea Tied to Multiple Job Losses

By Lisa Rapaport

November 05, 2020

(Reuters Health) - Recently unemployed people with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely than those without the sleep breathing disorder to have suffered multiple involuntary job losses, a recent study suggests.

Researchers examined health and employment data on 261 adults who had experienced involuntary job loss in the prior 90 days, and who underwent limited channel home sleep apnea tests. A total of 151 participants had no obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) based on sleep tests showing fewer than five respiratory events per hour; 71 participants had mild OSA based on tests showing five to 14 respiratory events per hour; and 29 participants had moderate to severe OSA based on tests showing at least 15 respiratory events per hour.

Overall, 117 people (44.8%) had experienced multiple involuntary job losses. Compared to people without apnea, those with mild OSA and moderate to severe OSA were more likely to report multiple involuntary job losses (adjusted odds ratio 1.55 and 2.46, respectively) after accounting for age, sex, ethnicity, shift work, job type, and whether workers were hourly or salaried.

"Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition associated with excessive daytime sleepiness and impairments in mental and physical performance," said study coauthor Gracela Silva of the College of Nursing at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

"It is associated with increases in absenteeism and 'presenteeism,' both of which could result in unsatisfactory job performance leading to termination of employment," Silva said by email.

Most of the study participants worked daytime shifts starting between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. (74.7%) and the majority received hourly compensation (73.2%). Most of them also worked in jobs outside of fields related to healthcare, management, or sales (64%).

The primary outcome was a participant's response to the question, "Have you ever been laid off from other jobs in the past?"

More than half of the workers with mild OSA or moderate to severe OSA reported having experienced multiple involuntary job losses (51.2% and 61.5%, respectively).

One limitation of the study is that employment information was self-reported, and it's possible that faulty memory or social acceptability bias might have impacted participants' responses to questions about any job losses, the study team notes in Sleep Health.

Researchers also lacked data on body mass index (BMI), and obesity is an independent risk factor for both obstructive sleep apnea and job loss.

It's also not clear from the study whether treating obstructive sleep apnea might impact employment prospects, said Dr. Sunil Sharma, section chief for pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown.

"We do not currently have any data as to how much the intervention of sleep apnea will help in preventing involuntary job loss," Dr. Sharma, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email. "We can extrapolate from prior studies which have shown that treatment of sleep apnea reduced daytime sleepiness and prevented accidents, that intervention will positively impact involuntary lob losses."

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/38b3MRP Sleep Health, online October 6, 2020.